#CyberPD is an online professional development learning community where teachers read and discuss a common professional development text. Visit Reflect & Refine for more details and links to connect with the group. This year’s book is Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 by Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass.
After reading two chapters of Digital Reading, I’m still not quite sure how teachers will use this book to improve their practice, but I like what I’ve read so far. Sibberson and Bass argue that digital reading has a place in reading workshop but remind us that we need to be intentional about the technologies and tools we integrate into our classrooms. We don’t need to jump on bandwagons and do new things just for the sake of doing new things.
That said, our students are reading, learning, and creating in digital environments outside of school, and we need to do more to bridge that gap between home and school literacies. Sibberson and Bass interview Sara, an eighth-grader, whose words are all too common: “if I want to learn something, I do that outside of school” (5). Bridging those gaps in literacy practice is one way to ensure that kids do learn meaningful things in school and that they see a purpose for school beyond, in my son’s words, “recess and seeing your friends.”
Sibberson and Bass’s definition of digital reading is broader than simply digital texts. I think this is an important part of the argument here: digital reading isn’t just about the ability “to read and understand nonlinear texts”:
Instead we want them to be intentional about when and how to choose which types of texts will help them find and best understand the message and medium. (8-9)
Traditional reading strategies and skills still have a place in a digital reading workshop, but their uses and applications are expanded because of digital tools. For example, the traditional skill of annotating is expanded to include the embedded annotation tools in digital texts; note-taking apps; and tools to “organize and reorganize ideas” (10).
Chapter 1 concludes with an explanation of the three anchors or core “understandings” that will guide Sibberson’s and Bass’s classroom practices: authenticity, intentionality, and connectedness. The bulk of the book will focus on how those three anchors can guide classroom practices in digital reading.
But first, there is Chapter 2, which describes the shift from reading workshop to digital reading workshop. There are several excellent charts with questions to help teachers incorporate more digital texts in their workshop classrooms. By “embed[ding] a variety of tools and texts across my workshop,” Sibberson’s students see digital reading as “integral to the nature of our work”—not another add-on to the curriculum.
Again, authenticity is the key: “As the digital tools of the twenty-first century have expanded what we mean by literacy, workshop must change to remain authentic for our students.” (20). Sibberson considers not just her students’ literacy practices, but her own—which for me is key. She makes a good point about her own literacy: “For years I ignored the technology I was using myself as a reader and writer and didn’t consider it something I needed to think about as a teacher.”
Our students need these tools and technologies to be part of their classroom not just because this is the world they live in but because it’s also the world we live in. Our classroom literacy practices need to align with and support our students’ and our own literacy practices in the world outside of school. This, for me, is one of the biggest and best changes we can make in our classrooms: to stop asking our students to do things in the name of learning that we ourselves don’t do as part of our learning.